Midseason check-in: Bruins boast strong defense, in serious need of offensive improvement

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

By Kaitlyn Riggio
Boston University News Service 

At the midpoint of the shortened 56-game NHL season, the Boston Bruins’ performance has been a mixed bag.  

The defense has been one of the stronger elements for the team this season, partly due to proficient goaltending. 

Back-up goaltender Jaroslav Halak has had an impressive season, with a .921 save percentage and a 2.06 goals against average over 13 games so far this season. These are big numbers when compared to other goalies — including starters — across the league.

Starting goaltender Tuukka Rask, a Vezina-nominee has been unavailable due to injury the past few weeks, but the fact that it has not been a major setback is a testament to both Halak’s individual skill and the strength of Rask and Halak as a tandem. 

The Bruins’ defensive performance outside of goaltending this season has been notable as well. Currently, they have given up the fewest goals out of any team in the league, something impressive considering the strength of the East Division. 

Charlie McAvoy has also been a defensive top performer this season for the Bruins. Following the departure of 14-season Bruins veteran Zdeno Chara, McAvoy has grown into his role as a leader on the Bruins’ top defensive pair, which includes leading the team in average time on ice. His plus/minus rating — at seven — is the highest out of the team’s defensemen. 

While the Bruins’ defensive performance has been strong this season, offensive issues should be the top concern of the team’s general manager Don Sweeney as the April 12 trade deadline approaches. It is impossible to win a hockey game without scoring goals — and scoring has been a challenge. 

The team is currently ranked 26th out of the league’s 31 teams, with only 75 goals. The Philadelphia Flyers and the New York Rangers — who are currently behind the Bruins in the East Division — have scored 93 goals this season each. 

The Bruins need to be able to produce offensively on every line, instead of relying so heavily on the Perfection Line, their top offensive line consisting of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak. A team’s top offensive line would logically include its best offensive players, but the scoring distribution is lopsided: the Perfection Line has scored more points than all of the other forwards on the team combined

There have been attempts to fix this problem throughout the season, namely by trying to find wingers to support non-top line centers, like David Krejci and Charlie Coyle, but many of these efforts have failed to pan out, and some of this may be due to injuries and other instances of player’s unavailability. 

With a whopping 13 players out with various injuries at the moment (five of which are due to COVID-19 protocols), it is understandable that the Bruins may be missing some key components of their roster at the moment. 

Jake DeBrusk, for example, has been a focus of attention throughout the season. The Bruins’ have been trying to get him to produce as a winger on the second line all season, going as far as scratching him from the lineup on March 9, citing lack of effort in an attempt to jump start the forward. 

In the short term, this appears to have been successful. DeBrusk scored two goals in the four games after being scratched. However, he was among the five players on the Bruins added to the league’s COVID-19 protocol list on March 19, which forced the team to pause operations, so there is a chance that the momentum DeBrusk gained after being scratched could be paused as well. 

Another attempt to add scoring depth to the lineup included bringing up right winger Zach Senyshyn from the Bruins’ AHL affiliate team in Providence. It is hard to get a read on how beneficial Senyshyn could be for the Bruins offensively, considering he was injured after playing only one game with the team this season. Maybe he will make another appearance with the Bruins after he recovers. 

Other notable injuries include Brandon Carlo, who is still recovering from a concussion after a hit to the head from Washington Capitals’ player Tom Wilson, and Jarred Tinordi, a recent acquisition off of waivers from the Nashville Predators. 

The Bruins are currently hanging on to fourth place in the division, and only the top four teams in each division will make the playoffs this year. One thing is certain: there needs to be a solution and fast. If the team does not take steps to fix their offensive issues, their chance at making the playoffs this season may just slip away. 

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